GOP candidates would cut federal judges' power

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Most of the Republican presidential candidates want to wipe away lifetime tenure for federal judges, cut the budgets of courts that displease them or allow Congress to override Supreme Court rulings on constitutional issues.

Any one of those proposals would significantly undercut the independence and authority of federal judges. Many of the ideas have been advanced before in campaigns to court conservative voters.

This time, though, six of the eight GOP candidates are backing some or all of those limits on judges, even though judges appointed by Republican presidents hold a majority on the Supreme Court and throughout the federal system.

A group that works for judicial independence says the proposals would make judges "accountable to politicians, not the Constitution."

Bert Brandenburg, executive director of the Justice at Stake Campaign, said, "Debates like these could threaten to lead to a new cycle of attempts to politicize the courts."

Only the former governors in the race, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Jon Huntsman of Utah, have not attacked federal judges in their campaigns.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been the most outspoken critic of the courts. He would summon judges before Congress to explain their decisions and consider impeaching judges over their rulings.

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